Zoo's recycling program is good for gorillas

A company called Eco-Cell recycles cell phones, collecting them at zoos and other places around the country.

The company recently announced that the Louisville Zoo led the more than 100 zoos across the nation that recycled cell phones in 2008.

And that, the zoo said in a press release, is good for gorillas living in Africa.

Here's why: Cell phones contain a metallic ore called coltan, which is found in Central Africa, in the same area that endangered lowland gorillas call home.

As the ore is mined, forests are cleared, spelling trouble for the gorillas. Also, the miners and others are killing gorillas for food, called bushmeat. More mining in an area means more dead gorillas.

It's a serious situation. The United Nations says that in the last five years, the number of gorillas has declined 90 percent.

So cell phone recycling means less coltan mining, and a better chance at survival for the gorillas.

When Eco-Cell began five years ago, it learned about the coltan-gorilla connection from the Louisville Zoo. Gorilla conservation now is the company's main thrust.

In 2008, the zoo collected 4,400 old cell phones. Since 2003, Eco-Cell has paid the zoo more than $15,000, which helps support conservation programs.

Eco-Cell has collection boxes at several places in Lexington, including Bluegrass PRIDE, 3120 Pimlico Parkway, Suite 126; Tates Creek Animal Hospital (which collects for the Louisville Zoo), 4101 Tates Creek Centre Drive Suite 146; and Goodwill Industries,130 West New Circle Road, No. 110.

For more Kentucky cities, and to learn more about the program, go to For more about the Louisville Zoo, go to